I’m not writing to offer clarity to anyone about the events following Umar Khalid’s seminar at Ramjas College. It’s more for my own clarity than anything else. I’m looking for a bunch of answers and I’m hoping that my attempt to articulate will be a step closer to finding those answers.
What happened at Ramjas and the sequence of the events that followed has affected every student part of the Delhi University, if not every student of the nation. This invasion of the university space as an environment which gives space for all to speak and for different ideas and opinions to coexist defeats the purpose of an education altogether. Books cannot impart education and cannot create individuals who can think for themselves. It’s discussion, debate and conflict which does that. Thus to remain ignorant and apolitical about what has happened in the past few days is no longer an option.
But what accounts as remaining ignorant?
The answer to that question has been giving me a lot of trouble the past couple of days. On the day of the protest outside Maurice Nagar Police Station, 22nd February, I was in North Campus but I chose not to participate in the protest. Having heard of the injuries my friends had sustained, I chose safety. I reached out to my friends at Ramjas and made sure they were okay.
I didn’t go for the protest at ITO the next day simply because I was too scared. This fear is not to be underestimated because it wasn’t born out of things that I read but of the experiences of police brutality and absolute mayhem my friends had recounted. There was guilt while I sat at home, watching TV while people I knew were at the protest fighting for the freedom of a university I too was a part of.
I was honest enough to admit that I didn’t have the courage to go to a protest and while I’m proud of that honesty, I’m not and should not be proud of what I was admitting. A lot of us operate under the assumption that someone else will fight this fight, someone else will clean up our shit for us, someone else will facilitate the change we want to see in the world. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on myself when I see my lack of courage as cowardice.
On 28th February, there was another protest. And I wanted to go, not because everyone else was going but simply because I was finally ready to face my fear of getting beaten up and getting lathi charged. I asked myself ’What if this were to happen at my college? Would I not fight then?’
In this situation, I called up my mother, someone who has always given me sound advice. Today was slightly different. Although her advice was practically correct, it made her fall into the category of people who don’t find it necessary to fight for something we want. I didn’t go. She told me that protests don’t make a difference and here she was too quick to discount the power and the belief of thousands of students who believe in their ability to make a difference.
Although I didn’t agree with her, I’m questioning whether any real good comes out of a protest. Having never been a part of one before, I wouldn’t know. This raises another question. If protests don’t make a difference, then what does? Writing this, sitting in the safety of my home or my college certainly doesn’t. Safety and change almost never go hand in hand.
At many points I’ve questioned whether writing a status on Facebook is effective at all. As I write this, using the medium of words to solve this dilemma of sorts, I’m still questioning it. But if it’s not, then what is? How do we really express dissent?